February 9, 2011

Students tire of vehicle breakins

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- For students parking their cars at town-owned athletic fields, vehicle breakins have become a vexing problem.
During the public comment segment of Monday night’s Town Council meeting, Keegan Smith, a student at Londonderry High School, implored the council to consider the need for surveillance cameras, particularly in the parking areas surrounding the Londonderry Athletic and Field Association complex at 6 Sargent Road.
“I know the town’s budget is a huge issue right
 now,” Keegan told the council, noting that he and other students might consider doing some fundraising on their own if the council agrees. In recent months, items such as iPads, stereos and cell phones have been taken from student vehicles, both locked and unlocked. In one instance, the thief reportedly used a screwdriver to pry open car doors. 

This week, Keegan told the council that three of his friends had their cars broken into over the past month. Though the thief, another LHS student, was ultimately caught, the need for surveillance cameras was noted, he said. 
“Perhaps this could be considered in the future or maybe we could guide students in funding it themselves,” Councilor Paul DiMarco said on Monday night. 
Councilor Tom Dolan agreed. 
“The first step would be to talk to the police department about what a system like this might cost,” he said. “This would at least give them some feedback regarding what’s feasible in the form of fundraising. Step two would be a continued dialogue.” 
Dimarco said: “Unfortunately, even in our community, people do things like this. The cameras would help. But I’m stating the obvious here: Don’t leave things out in the open.” 
On Tuesday, Londonderry police Chief Bill Hart said, “From time to time, as with any parking lot, really, we do have an issue with vehicle breakins.” 
However taking several simple steps, he noted, can reduce such instances. 
“Always lock your car and make sure nothing valuable, like iPods and cell phones, is left in sight,” Hart advised. “Always take your keys with you. Those are major preventative measures.” 
“This is still, fortunately, a safe community,” he added. “These instances are still relatively rare. The LAFA facilities, which are operated by volunteers, consist of 10 baseball and softball fields, as well as a full-service concession stand. According to the organization’s website, the program serves approximately 1,500 local children, spread over 116 teams. The program is fully funded through registration fees, sponsorships and fundraising. 
LAFA’s fields are located beside the town’s recreation fields, at Nelson Road. Both fields are on town-owned land. 
Students from the nearby high school regularly use the adjacent parking lots, LAFA president Ron Campo noted yesterday. 
According to Campo, LAFA volunteers haven’t yet considered the possibility of installing surveillance cameras in the parking lot, since vehicle break-ins haven’t been a problem for the baseball and softball leagues. 
“LAFA has had experience with damages to our buildings, fields and spray painting,” Campo said. The organization has since installed monitored security systems in several buildings, he added. 
Recreation Director Art Psaledas, who is also an assistant principal at Londonderry High School, said vehicle breakins are nothing new, at the high school or in other parking lots. 
Psaledas, who always encourages student theft victims to file reports with the police, said installing such a surveillance system could ultimately prove too costly. 
The high school does have several surveillance cameras outside of the building, he noted, though none in the parking lots. 
“They’re very expensive — we’re talking thousands of dollars,” Psaledas said. “They’d have to be maintained, and service would need to be set up.” 
Though he doesn’t disagree with the idea in theory, Psaledas said paying for such surveillance is yet another matter. 
“In the economic times we’re in, I don’t know how that would be accepted at town meeting, asking for a couple thousand dollars to do this,” he said. “Someone would likely stand up at that meeting and say, ‘Tell the kids to just take the bus!’” 

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